Without Hope by Frida Kahlo
It was an ordinary mark. A brown spot on the inside of the arm. Was it new or had it been there for long. Today it looked larger, browner and not just a mark on skin. It seemd more like a burn, but it did not hurt. I started scraping it with my nails. The loose skin or piece of wart would not come off. But my nail marks remained.

December 6. Wart or nail mark?

19 years ago. No media frenzy. Nothing to discuss. There is no Lakhvi, no Kasab. The culprits could well be ruling us. Again. As they did earlier, after the demolition.

Chilman ke peechhe
Awaazon ke neeche
Dab jaayegi haqeeqat

These are a few translated lines from the poem I wrote nine years later.

I had recorded the English original in 2008. The podcast is here.


Curtains drawn
Other humming sounds
Gag reality
Nature flourishes outside
My balcony is a carpet
Of green leaves
The railings soggy with rancid dew
Paint has peeled
Revealing a pockmarked patchy visage of wood
The glass has developed a deep crack
Injuring the winds knocking on the pane

There are injured looks
Frightened souls
What if?
What if the day repeats itself?
What if people get imprisoned in their homes?
No one asks about those who have no homes

They ask me my name
And make me walk down guilt lane
I can brandish a sword
Aim the barrel of a gun
Claw at someone's flesh
But the knife has been blunted
The gun is rusty
Nails are already filled
With my own scraped skin

The slow rumblings of conscience
Have formed dents in the floor
Red-faced anger
Makes place for red-faced shame
It looks like a canvas I have slashed
Painted with my blood

I fall into a slumber of broken thoughts
Hammering noises wake me up
Asking for retribution
Haven’t I damned myself enough
With ruptured veins
And torrents of pain?

I gather a drop of wayward tear on my finger
And hold it against the light
It grows into a bubble
Everything floats in it

The city
Drowned in ennui
Nudged out of comforters
The city
Of lost dreams
In pipes
The city
Where laughter is a challenge
A technique
The city
Where slums have numbers
Yet when they are destroyed there are no figures
The city
That sells its angst to the highest bidder
And buys its own tragedy as a souvenir

There are cities
That live within us
And breathe their last
Wearing oxygen masks

The tear bubble on my finger has evaporated
Sorrow is bone dry
It is time to pull out my eyes
There is nothing left to see


(This appeared in the January 2009 issue of Verve)

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